A shortened MLB draft, 5 rounds (160 picks) covering June 10th and 11th, does not change the fact this draft class is immensely deep with talent on both the college and high school levels. The amount of pitching depth to be found past the top tier (Jared Kelley, Emerson Hancock, Asa Lacy, Reid Detmers, Mick Abel and Nick Bitsko) is truly something to behold and with the amount of sleepers out there, there could be many names to this list. However last October, I discovered a pitcher who I immediately became a major fan of after watching his performance videos from the 2019 International Week Event in Boston and he was the pitcher I most was excited to follow as the 2020 prep season progressed. With everything getting shut down, unfortunately that did not happen and now we only have what is available to us as we look forward to next month. Today I am here to introduce you to Nick Griffin and explain why he is my biggest sleeper in next month’s draft.
Nick Griffin is a 17 year old (his 18th Birthday will be on Day 1 of the Draft), 6’4″, 185 lbs Left Handed Pitcher out of Monticello High School in Arkansas and carries a commitment to the University of Arkansas. Griffin also played in the outfield at Monticello and while he was pretty good with the bat, his real upside, to me and MLB teams from what I’ve heard, is on the mound. Griffin’s body is extremely projectable as a starting pitcher long term and has much room to grow into his frame as he progresses through Arkansas or an MLB organization depending on his fate in the draft. Body profile wise, Griffin reminds me a lot of Chris Sale (6’6″, 175 lbs) in which both are tall, lanky starters though Sale was a college pitcher when he was drafted in 2010 vs Griffin being a prep pitcher and still has some more room to grow.
Griffin’s mechanics are easily repeatable and, from what I’ve seen, he does not have any issues with that in outings. He starts off with both feet facing towards the first base line, body slightly twisted to face home plate, he then takes a mini step back with the front foot and then sync’s up fully towards first, comes up with a high leg kick, slightly tilts his body back and comes down with a clean, full extension giving his pitches much of a downward plane allowing the movement to potentially make up for what most would consider underwhelming velocity on his fastball (currently at 90-92). There’s no real whipping action that you otherwise would see which definitely limits the potential reliever risk that some other pitchers have large concerns over. When I watched Griffin for the first time, I immediately thought of Cliff Lee except the step back with the front foot is not nearly as exaggerated as Lee’s was.
Griffin’s arsenal contains a Fastball, a Curve ball, a Change up and a Slider, all which he can throw pretty well for strikes. His Fastball sits mostly between 90-93 mph but can reach 94-95 mph when needed. The velocity won’t blow anybody away by any means but what he lacks in velocity, he offers in movement in part to the downward plane but also movement on the pitch itself. He often buries his fastball down to hitters, which sets up his change up and curve ball (more on each in a second) but when he comes up with it, more than not he gets swings and misses on it. Like in the second fastball GIF below, it looks as if it is just going to drop out over the plate only to stay consistent and be a strike. His Fastball currently grades out at a 55 and I think as he grows more as a pitcher, he will be able to reach 94-96 mph range consistently with no issues. That, along with with the growth of his command/control and the movement of it, I think the future grade is a high 55 grade pitch, maybe potential 60 grade at his peak due to more movement instead of pure velocity.
(Above is a High Fastball that’s a swinging strike and Below is Belt High Fastball called for a strike)
Griffin’s Curve ball has some really good depth to it and seems to be spun really well. While I don’t have the exact spin rates, it looks as if Griffin has an ability to spin the ball and will be further able increase his spin rate with an advanced analytical club. It currently sits 77-80 mph and it really falls in nicely leaving hitters frozen at the plate. His arm movement on the fastball vs the curve ball are the same thus eliminating a potential read on what he’s throwing (some pitchers tend to slow down when throwing some offspeed). Right now I’d grade it as a 55 grade pitch and when all things are said and done, if Griffin can further spin it effectively, I can see it being a 60 grade pitch.
Griffin’s Change up out of his hand looks identical to his fastball which is why him setting up the fastball at the bottom of the zone is key to setting up the swings and misses on his change. The downward plane that his pitches travel due to his delivery allows the change up to look fastball all the way until the very end when it finally breaks at the last second. It sits around 77-79 mph and I feel he has more of a handle on it than most believe, especially given that he is a prep pitcher. Again, like the curve ball before it, his arm speed/slot doesn’t change much at all when throwing it meaning it further plays up like a fastball before falling. I’d grade it at a 55 right now and when all things are said and done, especially if Griffin continues to pinpoint the fastball at the bottom of the zone effectively and can get more spin on the change up, I could see it being another 60 grade pitch.
Griffin’s Slider runs in the 81-83 mph range and has some pretty good bite to it. He seems to have a good feel for it and while the GIF below doesn’t result in a swing and miss, it demonstrates the pitch’s movement. Again, like his curve ball and change up, his arm speed doesn’t change when throwing it meaning that there are no giveaways to when he throws it. It’s the most average of Griffin’s four pitches and the only offspeed pitch that doesn’t have 60 grade potential in my opinion. Right now I would grade it at a 50 pitch and when all things are said and done, I could see it being a 55 grade pitch.
Summary of Grades: (PV/FV)
All in all, I believe Nick Griffin will be a 3rd Rounder in next month’s draft and that would be quite a great grab for an organization. Yes there is some strong risk that Griffin will just opt for college and render all evaluations mute until he re-enters the draft in a few years however with the combination of his extremely smooth mechanics and delivery with his underrated stuff (which seems like it has some great spin on it), Griffin has all the makings of a SP2 ceiling which teams are going to want to over-slot when choosing Griffin in order to get him to forgo his Arkansas commitment. He is ranked #7 on my Top-10 Pitchers of the 2020 Draft Class and I sure hope my team is the one who pulls the trigger & pays him but if not, one of the other 29 teams got my biggest sleeper in the 2020 MLB class with some very high, currently untapped, upside.
-GIFs are made from the 2019 Program 15 2020 Grad Class Tournament and the 2019 International Week in Boston. Program 15 recorded and uploaded all film that is presented here in GIF form that I made-